A recyclable, aqueous phase functioning and biocompatible photon upconverting system is developed. Hollow mesoporous silica microcapsules (HMSMs) with ordered radial mesochannels were employed, for the first time, as vehicles for the post-encapsulation of oil phase triplet-triplet annihilation upconversion (TTA-UC), with the capability of homogeneous suspension in water. In-depth characterization of such upconverting oil-laden HMSMs (UC-HMSMs) showed that the mesoporous silica shells reversibly stabilized the encapsulated UC oil in water to allow efficient upconverted emission, even under aerated conditions. In addition, the UC-HMSMs were found to actively bind to the surface of human mesenchymal stem cells without significant cytotoxicity and displayed upconverted bright blue emission under 640 nm excitation, indicating a potential of our new TTA-UC system in biophotonic applications. These findings reveal the great promise of UC-HMSMs to serve as ideal vehicles not only for ultralow-power in vivo imaging but also for stem cell labeling, to facilitate the tracking of tumor cells in animal models.
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